National / International News
The Southern Food and Beverage Museum in New Orleans is re-imagining what a museum can be. There's plenty of scholarship, but also taste-testing — and a mission to help budding food entrepreneurs.
Wouldn’t it be nice to own a self-driving car? You could skip all of the traffic, read the newspaper and drink a latte on the way to work every morning.
Although, self-driving cars might be the next big thing in Silicon Valley, you won't seem them on roads for another decade or so, says Marketplace Tech host Ben Johnson. There's still a lot of work to make them street-ready, and right now they come with a hefty price tag: about $320,000.
"Your average American family can apparently afford to spend maybe about twenty grand on a car, so cost is a problem," Johnson says.
Google's self-driving cars have some GPS problems, but programming the software to respond to changing, unpredictable driving conditions is another issue.
"Software is really good at dealing with stuff that it’s been designed to deal with," Johnson says. "It’s way harder for you to design software to deal with data that it has not predicted yet."
Jobs are out there – so why is it taking employers so long to fill them?
"The key reason is that there’s a mismatch in the jobs market going on,” says Robert Johnson, Director of Economic Analysis at Morningstar.
Like trying to pair plaid with polka dots — there are many patterns to follow. First, while there are jobs, some are part time and workers may be holding out for the real deal of a full-time gig. Next, some industries may be looking for skilled workers who don’t exist.
“There definitely is a shortage in the labor market right now – everybody is experiencing it in construction," says Kristen Ripmaster, sales and operations manager at Constructionjobs.com. There are jobs on the site says Ripmaster, but applications are down or nonexistent.
Construction, notes Ripmaster, took a hit during the downturn and so the flow of young people choosing to go into the industry stopped. Furthermore, anyone still in the market is already working because of the boom in the industry.
But Dean Baker, co-director of the Center for Economic and Policy research, has another take on the mismatch. “It doesn’t seem that skills are the issue,” he says.
The biggest disconnect, he says, between available jobs and how long it takes to fill them, is in the retail and restaurant industries.
"It’s a little hard to believe that the reason restaurants and retail stores have all these openings that are going unfilled, is because they can’t find qualified workers," Baker says.
DiceHoldings, a company that tracks how long it takes to fill jobs, says both employers and workers have been getting pickier about what they want – which makes it harder to find a match.
But if employers need workers, Baker says, they’ll have to begin offering higher salaries.
"We all understand that if you want a really good quarterback, you’re willing to pay $20 million a year to get a really good quarterback" he says. "And you’ll get a really good quarterback."
The IMF has revised its view of global economic growth prospects: It’s a mixed picture, leaning towards poor.
The U.S. will have grown 2.2 percent by the end of this year, the IMF says. That's not stunning, but still 0.5 percent higher than the fund’s previous prediction. The U.S. is expected to grow 3.1 percent in 2015.
The IMF reduced its prediction for growth in Europe from 1.1 percent to a mere 0.8 percent. Europe is still struggling with an 11.5 percent unemployment rate (the U.S. rate is 5.9 percent). The continent is precariously close to deflation - a form of economic stagnation that can last decades, as it did in Japan.
China’s growth is slowing and will continue to slow, says the IMF. It will decelerate from 7.7 percent growth in 2013 to 7.4 percent in 2014 and 7.1 percent in 2015.
“The U.S. is the one eyed man in the country of the blind,” says Jacob Kirkegaard, senior fellow at the Peterson Institute for International Economics. “The U.S. is the only one that seems to be turning in the other direction.”
Kirkegaard credits both the aggressive response of the U.S. Federal Reserve and the underlying “flexibility and dynamism” of the U.S. economy: “The U.S. is an economy that is able to absorb shocks far more rapidly than certainly the European countries but also Japan and it is an economy where simple entrepreneurship plays a much bigger role.”
“The U.S. is once again the rudder that’s going to keep the world steered in the right direction I hope,” says Ross DeVol, Chief Research Officer at the Milken Institute. The rising dollar and increasing consumer appetite in the U.S. will spur the export sectors of other economies around the world.
The modest success of the U.S. may also pose a challenge to the rest of the world. When the U.S. was in crisis, investors shifted money to developing and emerging economies. Now that the U.S. is getting back on its feet and interest rates may rise in 2015, the reverse is happening, says Stephen Kaplan, assistant professor of international affairs at George Washington University.
“It might be more difficult for governments and firms abroad to borrow in an environment where more capital is going to be dedicated to the United States,” he says.
The larger source of concern for many economists however is the situation in Europe.
“Europe is avoiding a technical recession but will get so close to one that you won’t know the difference,” says DeVol. “The global cycle is out of balance.”
Europe not growing at all, or very slowly, is not good for anyone in the world, says Matthew Slaughter, professor at the Tuck School of Business at Dartmouth.
Europe all together has the largest economy in the world. A weak Europe is less likely to import from the U.S. or China which is also slowing down. Slaughter says its problems – like an 11.5 percent unemployment rate and a not fully resolved sovereign debt problem – run deep.
“Those problems have been layered on top of what for many countries, even before the crisis, was this no growth in population, slow productivity growth environment they were already in,” Slaughter says.
Demographically, Europe is aging, Slaughter continued: “In many countries the labor force growth will be zero and there’s not much inflow of immigration so that dynamism from a young and growing population is not there.”
The European policy response to the recession has not been as aggressive or effective as responses elsewhere in the world.
“The combination of fiscal and monetary policy has just been too firm,” says Peter Fisher, senior fellow at the Center for Global Business and Government at Dartmouth. “It’s partly because they’ve been fighting a multiple front war – they’ve had to hold the euro together in addition to stimulating economy and that’s both a political challenge and an economic one.”
The IMF says Europe has a 38 percent chance of slipping into a recession again, double the odds in April.